Colorblindness Will Not Save You
An evaluation of ColorBlind Ideology and Policies
All people see the world in color. Even biologically color-blind people see hue in a spectrum. Colors help people identify objects through contrast and density. So, when white people profess not to notice the color of skin, what are they alleging?
The self-proclaimed color-blind person claims that they love all people, so skin-color doesn’t matter. However, if they love all people, they would see them as the beautifully complicated individuals instead of whitewashing their cultural identity in an attempt to absolve themselves of racism. It is their shield against accountability, empathy, and reason.
“Colorblindness denies the lived experiences of other people” (Vincenty 2020).
Subject to the wickedness of a predatory system, Black people navigate concrete jungles, often isolated when attempting to advocate for transformative change.
When color-blind ideology denies the lived experiences of others, it fails to acknowledge the significance of equity. The so-called kindness is a cruel jest. While many would love to wash their hands of race, pretending that race is irrelevant does not counter racism, it perpetuates it.
If the real intent of color-blind ideology is to treat everyone equally, the disparities caused by the colonial, white supremacist system must come to an end first. Color-blind thinking fails to address injustice. Only after advocates successfully acquire restorative justice measures would that idealistic America exist.
When self-proclaimed anti-racists skip steps, Black communities suffer from color-blind policies like the 1994 Crime Bill, The Crack-Cocaine Sentencing Disparities, Privatized Prisons, and the School-to-Prison-Pipeline. How can people dismantle what they claim not to see?
The Motives Behind Color-blind Ideology
After Reconstruction, Southerners enacted overtly racist policies in retaliation for the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on race illegal. White people had to get inventive.
The overt acts of racism would no longer be socially acceptable. As a result, their hatred transformed into more subversive techniques. This passive-aggressive white fragility facilitated the continuation of intolerance.
This implicit bias preserves a never-ending system of racism. For example, educational disparities deprive Black students of equitable educational opportunities. Statistics show standardized tests discriminate against Black and Hispanic students.
Similarly, these marginalized groups are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, becoming victims of mass incarceration and police brutality.
“Truly meaningful reforms to the criminal justice system cannot be accomplished without acknowledgement of racial and ethnic disparities in the prison system, and focused attention on reduction of disparities” (Nellis 2019).
Even Black people who manage to make it through life without being negatively impacted by the underfunding of public education and mass incarceration still face discrimination at the workplace, where people of color make less money and face underrepresentation in management and leadership roles.
“Many companies are using the concept of “fit” in hiring practices. “Fit” refers to how a person is perceived as ‘fitting in to’ and ‘contributing to’ an existing workplace. It is discouraging, but perhaps not surprising, then, that white employers will, generally, see white applicants (with white, middle-class perspectives), as a better fit than, a person of colour whose first language is not English” (Nellis 2019).
These disparities, along with many others, create a significant gap in the lived realities Americans experience. The inequities cause and maintain the division, and the only way to fix America is for more white people to take down the color-blind shield.
Instead of pretending not to see the color of people’s skin, white people should not shy away from recognizing the humanity of people who look differently. No one should need to deny that they see differences in accepting diversity. It’s a good thing to see people for who they are empathizing with the struggles they face.
Authentic anti-racist people see Black people in living color and will never pretend that race is not a factor in the lives we live, the opportunities given, and the power we wield.
Color-blind policies will not fix the criminal justice system because they deny that any bias exists. They will go so far as to insist that those bringing up race are racist themselves, in an attempt to deflect. However, it is not racist to fight racism, nor is it sexist to fight sexism.
A prime example of American widespread white denial springs from the White House; current Trump Administration officials deny the existence of systematic racism which indicates an unwillingness to counteract oppressive policies.
“At one point, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee asked Barr whether he ‘seeks to end’ systemic racism in policing. Eventually, the nation’s top law enforcement officer clarified his position: “I don’t agree that there’s systemic racism in police departments generally, in this country” (Johnson, 2020).
Bill Barr’s color-blind remarks aimed to silence the movement towards the reformation of the criminal justice system, which is indicative of the administration’s approach. Before Bill Barr acted as U.S. Attorney General, former Alabama senator Jeff Sessions shared similar values. He fought against the Civil Rights Movement throughout his career.
“Sessions once prosecuted civil rights activists for registering black voters.
Argued that stop-and-frisk programs are Constitutional, saying that ‘it’s all about how that is done’ (American Civil Liberties Union 2017).
When the U.S. Attorney General denies the existence of systematic racism, it sends a message to local D.A. offices, police departments, and their unions that everything will remain the same. Black Lives Matter Protests matter when they translate into progressive, inclusive-driven policies.
This dog whistle is a standard method for perpetrating color-blind ideology. Their goal is to maintain the status quo and, whenever possible, backslide into segregationist policies by denying the lived experiences of Black people.
“African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 5.1 timesthe imprisonment of whites. In five states (Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, and Wisconsin), the disparity is more than 10 to 1” (Nellis 2019).
Any science-driven model would acknowledge that the disparities are statistically significant. Yet, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr instead holds up his shield and claims that racism does not exist within the criminal justice system.
Redlining is another example of a subversive strategy by white supremacists who aim to continue to benefit from the oppression of others. Through the use of discriminatory real estate agency and lending practices, neighborhoods remained segregated, and some parts of America became even more so.
“Racial discrimination in mortgage lending in the 1930s shaped the demographic and wealth patterns of American communities today. A new study shows, with 3 out of 4 neighborhoods “redlined” on government maps 80 years ago continuing to struggle economically”.
The compounded impact of systematic racism is difficult to ignore when you recognize Black people’s humanity and, therefore, the injustice of this mistreatment. Although these attacks took many forms, the goal was to hurt Black people covertly since overt acts became socially unacceptable.
“As Douglass stressed, that yearning was misguided. “I shall never forget the difference between those who fought for liberty and those who fought for slavery,” he asserted. By burying the past, he made clear, his audience was abandoning Blacks to injustice — to the whims of former Confederates, bent on continuing the oppressions of slavery in other forms” (Crillo 2020).
Initially, “I don’t see color” became a well-known phrase for white people who do not consider themselves racist or do not want confrontation for immortalizing racism. However, this color-blind ideology will no longer work as a tool to silence Black people.
Those days are over. No longer will their shield halt the progress by conflating the issues at hand because the American racial reckoning aims to address these inequities.
Advocates for racial justice must be willing to see the color of people’s skin and not be afraid of the differences they see. A failure to do so only leads to the creation of covertly bigoted measures.
America is diverse but historically lacked the inclusive spirit that could unify people behind shared values. Differences are the country’s strength and from now on, should not be ignored, but embraced.
Additional Articles on Race, Justice, and Equality
Can You Pass the Brown Paper Bag Test?
Standardized Test Architects are Racist Gatekeepers
Inadequate tests cannot assess black students’ abilities
Are you Negro, African American, or Black?
The significance in the language we use
American Civil Liberties Union (Ed.). (2017, March 09). Jeff Sessions: The Facts. Retrieved August 16, 2020, from https://www.aclu.org/other/jeff-sessions-facts
Cirillo, F. (2020, August 07). Perspective | Colorblindness has become a conservative shield for racial inequality. Retrieved August 15, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/08/07/colorblindness-has-become-conservative-shield-racial-inequality/
Jan, T. (2018, March 28). Analysis | Redlining was banned 50 years ago. It’s still hurting minorities today. Retrieved August 16, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/03/28/redlining-was-banned-50-years-ago-its-still-hurting-minorities-today/
Johnson, G. (2020, August 15). US Attorney General Denies Systemic Racism in Policing. Retrieved August 15, 2020, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/30/us-attorney-general-denies-systemic-racism-policing
Nellis, A. (2019, January 10). The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons. Retrieved August 16, 2020, from https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/color-of-justice-racial-and-ethnic-disparity-in-state-prisons/
Vincenty, S. (2020, June 18). Being Color Blind Doesn’t Make You Not Racist-In Fact, It Can Mean the Opposite. Retrieved August 15, 2020, from https://www.oprahmag.com/life/relationships-love/a32824297/color-blind-myth-racism/
This article was originally published on Medium through Injustice